EPI's weekly illustration of education data trends — March 17, 2016

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Highest Level of Educational Attainment for US Adults, by Selected Age Groups, 2012/14


The chart below illustrates the highest level of education earned by age group in the US for 2012/14. The overall adult group from ages 16 through to 65 shows that 64 percent—or two thirds—had a high school degree or lower, and those that went on to some form of postsecondary education (PSE) were distributed by 9 percent at the associate's level, 17 percent at the bachelor's level, and 10 percent at the graduate/professional level.

When compared to those individuals between the same age group that are unemployed, the percent that went to postsecondary education falls dramatically, with only 23 percent going to PSE compared to 36 percent of the entire population. Put another way, 77 percent of currently unemployed people between the ages of 16 and 65 earned a high school degree or lower as their terminal degree.

Although the population between 16 and 34 is skewed slightly because the lower-aged population has not had a chance to go to PSE, compared to adulsts who are between the ages of 66 and 74, the percentages look very similar, suggesting there has not been a massive change in the percentage of adults who go to PSE over a 30-50 year period.

SOURCE: Rampey, B.D., Finnegan, R., Goodman, M., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Hogan, J., and Provasnik, S. (2016). Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results From the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012/2014: First Look (NCES 2016-039). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016039.pdf